Thimphu Drubchen Festival
Besides the Thimphu Tsechu,Thimphu also celebrates a one day festival known as the Thimphu Drubchen which is also commonly known as Thimphu Dromchoe . The day long festival dates back to the 17th century. It was first introduced by Kuenga Gyeltshen in 1710, who was recognized as the reincarnation of Jampel Dorji, son of Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyel. The dromchoe is celebrated 3 days prior to the Thimphu Tshechu.
The Drubchen showcases the sacred dances dedicated to the chief protective deity of Bhutan, Palden Lhamo. Legend has it, that the deity Pelden Lhamo appeared before Kuenga Gyeltshen and performed the dances while he was in meditation. Based on these dances, Kuenga Gyaltshen initiated the Dromchoe.
During Thimphu Drubchen the mask dances known as cham and folk dances are performed to bless onlookers, to teach them the Buddhist dharma, to protect them from misfortune and to exorcise all evil. It is believed that merit is gained by attending these festivals. The dances invoke the deities to wipe out misfortunes, increase good luck and grant personal wishes.
Apart from its religious implications, the festival is also an annual social gathering where people dress in their finest clothing and jewelleries. It brings you a closer contact with the local people and gives you an insight into the Bhutanese lives, beliefs and more.
Thimphu Tshechu is one of the most popular festivals in Bhutan. This festival is held in Thimphu for 3 days beginning on 10th day of the 8th month of lunar calendar. Thimphu Tsechu was initiated by the 4th Desi, Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay in 1867 and later some changes were introduced in Thimphu Tshechu in the 1950s by the third Kingof Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.
This Thimphu festival is witnessed by thousands of people from all over Bhutan. The actual Tshechu is preceded by days and nights of prayer and rituals to invoke the gods.
To Bhutanese farmers, the Thimphu Tshechu is also seen as a break from farm life. It is an annual social gathering where people dress in their finest clothing and jewelries come to celebrate, receive blessings and pray for health and happiness.
It brings you a closer contact with the local people and gives you an insight into the Bhutanese lives, beliefs and more.
During Thimphu Tshechu which is held at Tendrel Thang ( Festival Ground in front of Tashichhoedzong), the mask dances known as cham and folk dances are performed to bless onlookers, to teach them the Buddhist dharma, to protect them from misfortune and to exorcise all evil. It is believed that merit is gained by attending these festivals. The dances invoke the deities to wipe out misfortunes, increase good luck and grant personal wishes.
The sacred Thongdrol of Guru Rinphoche is unfurled early in the morning on the last day of Thimphu Tshechu. It is believed that the Thongdroel is unveiled at dawn to bring blessings to all who view it.
Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival
The Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival was established in 2011 in commemoration of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and the Armed Forces’ victory over Indian insurgent forces residing in southern Bhutan in 2003.
The festival is held annually on December 13th at the Festival Ground near Druk Wangyel Lhakhang which is located at Dochula Pass. Dochula Pass is one of the most scenic passes in Bhutan, which offers spectacular views of the Himalayan mountain ranges.
Druk Wangyal Lhakhang (temple) was built over period of four years from 2004-2008 by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck ( the Queen Mother of Bhutan) as a tribute to His Majesty the fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck and armed forces after His Majesty led a successful operation against Indian militants who had occupied certain areas of Bhutan. The gallery of the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang has beautiful murals depicting some of the important events in the reigns of the Kings of Bhutan.
Haa Summer Festival
Set among pristine lakes and high alpine valleys, the Haa summer festival is a lively and uplifting celebration of traditional living-culture, nomadic lifestyles, unique Bhutanese cuisine, traditional sports and religious performances.
It provides insight into the lives and traditions of Bhutan’s nomadic herders. Immerse yourself in this one of a kind experience by playing the local sports, sampling the delicious home-cooked cuisine and enjoying traditional songs and dances all while imbibing the heady local liquor (Ara).
Haa valley is located about 65 km or 2 hours travel time from Paro Valley via the Chelela Pass, which is Bhutan’s highest road pass.
Paro Tshechu (festival) is the most popular religious dance festival in Bhutan. It has been held annually since the 17th century when Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (the founder of the state of Bhutan) and Ponpo Rigzin Nyingpo initiated Paro Tshechu festival together with the consecration of Paro Dzong (fortress) in 1644.
Paro Tsechu is held for 5 days beginning on the 10th Day of 2nd Bhutanese lunar month every year and in 2018 it is from March 27-31. The Paro festival offers a best opportunity to witness the Bhutanese’s rich culture and history. The Tshechu is a religious festival and by attending it, it is believed one gains merits.
It is also a yearly social gathering where the people come together to rejoice dressed in all their finery.
On the last day of Paro Tsechu there will be a display of a gigantic thangkha (embroidered painting), the Guru Throngdrol.Thongdrols are especially impressive examples of Buddhist art and never fail to amaze viewers. They are considered so sacred that simply seeing a Thongdrol is said to cleanse the viewer off sin.
Punakha Drubchen and Punakha Tshechu
Punakha is located in the western part of Bhutan and this place has critical importance in the history of Bhutan since the time of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the Buddhist Saint who unified Bhutan, in 17th century.
During 17th century Bhutan was invaded several times by Tibetan forces seeking to seize a very precious relic, the Ranjung Kharsapani. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal led the Bhutanese to victory over the Tibetans and to commemorate the triumph he introduced the Punakha Drubchen. Since then Punakha Drubchen became the annual festival in Punakha.
The Punakha Drubchen is a unique festival because it hosts a dramatic recreation of the scene from the 17th century battle with Tibetan army. The ‘pazaps’ or local militia men dress in traditional battle gear and reenact the ancient battle scene on the last day of Punakha Drubchen.
Punakha Tshechu was introduced in 2005 in response to the requests made by Punakha District Administration and local people to host a Tshechu in order to better preserve Buddhist teachings and keep alive the noble deeds of Zhabdrung Rimpoche.
Both the festival consists of typical masked dances which are very colourful and interesting, the events and enactments are different on each day. Punakha Dromchoe is a five day long festival dedicated to the goddess Mahakala. The religious aspects are performed in the same manner as in early times.
Nomad Festival in Bumthang
This annual gathering of Bhutan’s nomadic highlanders brings together the herders of the northeastern and northwestern Himalayan frontiers in an unforgettable celebration of their unique culture and traditions.
You’ll gain an intimate glimpse into the proud communities that have survived virtually unchanged to this day and form a rich part of Bhutan’s ethnic and cultural diversity.
Dine on delicious traditional recipes whilst sitting cross-legged around a stone hearth as families from this region have done for untold ages.
Dress like a Bhutanese highlander and try on an entire costume spun from yak hair, including the Brokpa black hat with five long fringes down the front or the conical bamboo Layap headgear. Ladies can wear the wide, beautiful hand-woven aprons decorated with colorful motifs of flowers and animals traditionally worn by women. They can even have their hair plaited and decorated with colorful ribbons in the traditional style of the region.
The festival will give you the opportunity to witness the grand pageantry of the Chipdrel, a ceremonial procession usually reserved for royalty.
Adventurous visitors will definitely want to try some yak riding.
Immerse yourself in the festival-wide demonstrations of traditional Bhutanese village life including using ancient mill-stones for grinding maize, husking harvested rice and tilling fields with ox-drawn ploughs.
Attain inner peace as you visit some of the most exquisite Buddhist temples in Bhutan.
The Nomad festival is held in Bumthang Dzongkhag (district) in central Bhutan the spiritual heartland of the country. Bumthang is approximately an 8 hour drive from the capital city of Thimphu.
Bumthang Jambhay Lhakhang Festival
Jampa lhakhang is located in Bumthang.Jampa Lhakhang is one of the oldest temples in the kingdom. It was founded by, Songtsen Gampo, a Tibetan King in the 7th century AD. The king was destined to build 108 temples known as Thadhul- Yangdhul (temples on and across the border) in a day to subdue the demoness that was residing in the Himalayas. The temple is one of the two of the 108 built in Bhutan. The other is the Kichu lhakhang in Paro, believed to have been built on the same day.
Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche visited the site several times and deemed it exceptionally sacred. Chakhar Gyab, the king of the Iron Castle of Bumthang renovated the temple in the 8th century AD.
The first king of Bhutan, Gongsa Ugyen Wangchuck constructed the Dus Kyi Khorlo (Kala Chakra- Wheel of Time) inside the temple, to commemorate his victory over his rivals Phuntsho Dorji of Punakha and Alu Dorji of Thimphu after the battle of Changlimithang in 1885. Later, Ashi Wangmo, the younger sister of the second king of Bhutan, built the Chorten lhakhang.
The main relics include the future Buddha, Jowo Jampa (Maitreya) from whose name the present name of the temple is derived. The lhakhang also houses more than one hundred statues of the gods of Kalachakra built by the first king, in 1887. Here, one of the most spectacular festivals is hosted called Jambay lhakhang Drup that lasts for five days beginning from Oct 24-27, 2018. The highlight of the festival is the fire ritual that is held in the evening where crowds gather to witness the ritual together with the naked dance.
Bumthang Ura Festival (Ura Yakchoe)
Ura valley in Bumthang is known for the famous dance known as the Ura Yakchoe. The mask and folk dances are performed during and also sacred relic is put on display so that the people can receive blessings from it.
According to legend, a lama visited an old woman who was sitting outside her house. This Lama seemed very mysterious and all he asked from the old lady was a glass of water. The old lady went to get water for the lama and when she returned the Lama just disappeared. But left behind a sack outside her doorsteps. Out of curiosity,she opened the sack and found a statue in the sack. The statue was no ordinary statue, for it was a relic which is now displayed annually during Ura Yakchoe. This relic has been passed on from generation to generation and is still owned by the descendants of the woman.
Trongsa Tshechu (festival)
Trongsa Tsechu is held annually at the courtyard of Trongsa Dzong (fortress). Trongsa,ancestral home of the Royal Family, is about 199 km or 7 hours travel time from Thimphu and it is situated in central Bhutan. Both the first and second kings of Bhutan ruled the country from this ancient seat and it is customary for the crown prince to serve as the Trongsa Penlop (“governor”) prior to ascending the throne.
Trongsa Dzong built in 1648 is said to be the most impressive dzong in Bhutan and is truly an architectural masterpiece. This Tsechu or festival brings together people from all walks of life and the tsechu lasts for 3 days. In addition to traditional mask dances, visitors can witness the unfurling of the sacred Thongdrol and receive blessings from high ranking monks.
Day Gomphu Kora Festival
Gomphu Kora is situated 23 kilometres from Trashigang Dzong, the headquarters of Bhutan’s most populous district.
Gomphu means “Meditation Cave” and Kora means “Circumambulation”. The name is derived from a cave formed out of a rock-face next to a temple that has been built as a tribute to this sacred site.
The story of Gomphu Kora goes back to the 8th century AD. Legend has it that an evil spirit named Myongkhapa escaped from Samye in Tibet when Guru Padmasambhava was spreading the Dharma in the Himalayas. Myongkhapa followed the course of the present-day Kholongchhu stream and concealed himself inside a rock where Gomphu Kora stands today. The Guru followed the evil, mediated for three days inside the rock cave and finally vanquished it.
Several prominent religious personalities have undertaken pilgrimage to Gomphu Kora and the earliest was Gongkhar Gyal, grandson of Lhasay Tsangma. He built a small shrine at Gomphu Kora around the 10th century A.D. In the 14th century, Terton Pema Lingpa, visited Gomphu Kora and enlarged the existing shrine. It was renovated and enlarged in the 15th century by Yongzin Ngagi Wangchuk, the grandfather of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (who unified Bhutan). He also inscribed murals on the walls of the temple.
The biggest attraction of Gomphu Kora is the circumambulation. “Go around Gomphu Kora today for tomorrow may be too late”, advises a local song that entices devotees to visit Gomphu Kora. The place comes alive, once every year in early spring (from APril 4-6, 2017) when people all over eastern Bhutan descend upon the narrow valley, dressed in their finery, to partake in the festivity, to worship and to reaffirm their connection with the past.
The sanctity of the three day religious festival even draws devotees from neighboring areas as far as Arunachael Pradesh (India).